JOHN GROVE BARKER - TENTH PRESIDENT, 1971-1974
John Grove Baker, who was working as the assistant executive secretary of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, accepted the position of the tenth President of Marshall University on January 12, 1971. A colleague recalled that he “was president during a great time of civil unrest in this country.…It was difficult to run an institution at that time, especially one that was underfunded as Marshall University was when he became president in 1971. Among the challenges he faced was the University’s academic probation, the aftermath of the school’s devastation from the plane crash, declining student enrollment, and woeful lack of adequate funding from the West Virginia legislature. Among his chief goals was to get the school off academic probation from North Central Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools, which he accomplished two years after joining Marshall. He resigned from Marshall in 1974, accepting a position as the president of Midwestern State University at Wichita Falls, Texas.
John Grove Barker was one of fifteen children of William Rolfe Barker and Betty H.(Cummings) Barker; he was born on June 24, 1926, at Ocala, Florida. He attended public schools in the Washington, D.C., area, but dropped out at the age of fifteen. He joined the U. S. Army and during World War Two he fought in the South Pacific Theater as rifleman, primarily in the Philippines, where he earned an infantry combat badge and a bronze star.
After returning from the war, he focused on returning to school. He attended Concord College, where he earned a B. S. in biology in 1947. He next attended Shenandoah University for one year, in 1948. He then transferred to the University of Maryland, where he earned a M.S. in zoology in 1953. Obtaining fellowships from the National Science Foundation, he received his Ph.D. in entomology from the Virginia Polytechnic Institute in 1957.
Barker left Marshall University in 1974 to head Midwestern State University at Wichita Falls, Texas, where he served until 1980. In 1980, he left higher education and began a new career as an investment broker with A.G. Edwards and Sons. He died on Wednesday, July 1, 2009 in St. Paul’s Hospital in Dallas, Texas, surrounded by his family.
After returning from the war he married Maxine Dayton of Keyser, West Virginia, in 1948. They were the parents of two daughters. He was a Presbyterian elder and in one of his many written prayers, which was A Prayer for All, he wrote: “We cannot glance in any direction without seeing the fruit of their labors and love.…Continue to give them strength, compassion and vision as they work on our behalf.
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